The relationship between Jane and Rochester, In Jane Ere Is an Intriguing, captivating and unconventional one, right from their first meeting. Throughout the novel, Bronze conveys the struggles In which Jane Is faced with, in order to have a genuine loving and equal relationship with Rochester, without betraying her own personal beliefs and principles. Also the issues of social class standing, social rules, gender roles and religion in the nineteenth century Victorian culture present as obstacles to Jane in her quest.
Jane finds a companion in Rochester who can offer her he love, acceptance and sense of belonging she so yearns for. However Jane must find a way around the issues I have presented, which are a result of Victorian attitudes in society during the nineteenth century, In order to further explore the issues I have outlined above, we must first consider historical context behind this novel, and gain a deeper Insight into the time in which It was set and published. It Is important to realism the unspoken rules of society In the nineteenth century, and the societal view around social class, gender roles and religion during this era.
During his period of time different social classes were set In place, based on a variety of factors Including power, wealth, education, and living conditions. These were the working class; the least superior of society, and the middle and upper classes. The upper class were usually titled and made up of the wealthiest ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ of society. The working class generally served the upper and middle classes in roles such as servants, maids and valets. Relationships other than professional ones, between classes, would not be highly regarded by society or a common occurrence at al.
This is why class difference was a major obstacle in the romantic relationship that blossomed between Jane and Rochester. As the governess at Threefold Hall, the position of Cane’s social class could be seen as rather ambiguous in the way that her manners, good education and level of etiquette were superior to those of a typical working class servant, however she was In fact a paid employee; powerless and equally poor. The difference In class between Jane and Rochester; him being her employer and master, meant that a romantic relationship between the two of them, old certainly be frowned upon and rejected by society.
Jane aware that she is not considered as Rochester’s equal, due to Victorian class prejudices and attitudes, is reluctant to marry him at first because of this. It is only when Jane acquires a fortune, inherited from her uncle that is she able to marry Rochester as his equal. It is strikingly obvious that women were seen as the inferior gender of society during the nineteenth century, and were expected to fill the roles set in place for them such as housewives, maids and governesses. Women were also expected to remain passive ND submissive at all times, withholding emotions such as anger and rage.
Diane Roberts discusses the feminine ideal’ of the Victorian culture, in her interpretation of the novel. She describes how the idea of the perfect lady ‘did not have a secret self- boiling with rage and passion’ (Roberts, 1992, page 5). It would be considered highly unladylike and displeasing to society for women to outwardly display such emotions. Passive, and her struggle with this view that society held, whilst also highlighting her longing for equality. It can be argued that this is Bronze’s way of criticizing society’s ender prejudices at this time, and incorporating her own feminist views into the novel, through Cane’s character.
Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel Just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering gag.
It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex. ‘ (Page 129 – 130). Therefore not only does the issue of social classes pose a risk to the level of equality Jane is able to achieve in her relationship with Rochester, but there is also this issue of gender inequality which was apparent during the nineteenth century. Jane struggles with Rochester, as he too believes women to be inferior to men, and therefore attempts to treat her as such, in some ways inadvertently to his defense.
For example the way in which he attempts to dress Jane up in fine clothing and jewels after their engagement. Rochester may not realism it, but here he is effectively treating Jane as if she were one of his mistresses by lavishing her with expensive gifts. Jane makes her discomfort at this clear when she tells Rochester that she will not be his ‘English Cline Varies’ (page 31 1), and will continue working as Dell’s governess, in order to remain financially independent of him; ‘[… By that I shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides’ (page 311). Jane does not ant to be dressed in finery by Rochester, as she fears that this will Jeopardize her independence, and make her inferior to him,which is not in line with her search for equality. Later Rochester admits to Jane that he did in fact regard his past mistresses as inferior to him, when he tries to convince her to marry him. This is after Jane discovers that Rochester is already married to Bertha. Hiring a mistress is the next worse thing to buying a slave; both are often by nature, and always by position, inferior: and to live familiarly with inferiors is degrading. I now hate the recollection f the time I passed with Cline, Cantina and Clara. ‘ (Page 359) Rochester describes the degradation he felt whilst living with his mistresses, and the displeasure he now feels looking back at this time. However by Jane agreeing to be his wife, she effectively would be agreeing to be his mistress, as it could never be a legitimate marriage whilst his current wife Bertha still lives.
By not going ahead with the marriage, Jane is able to keep her self – respect intact, by not marrying a figure who is superior to her in wealth and social status, as well as the respect of Rochester by not improvising her principles and beliefs. Being a Christian, the marriage would also go against Cane’s religious beliefs, as she would be entering an arrangement full of sin. Jane uses her religion to aid her in the decision of not going ahead with the marriage, as she wishes to live and abide by the laws God has set.
Refusing to marry Rochester was not an easy decision for Jane to make, as she was forced to let go of the one thing she wanted most; true love. She internally struggles who she knows truly loves her, against doing the right thing. ‘[… ]soothe him; save IM; love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? Or who will be injured by what you do? (Page 365). Here it is clear how much Jane wants to give in to Rochester, but in the end her dignity, religion and self-respect prevent her from doing so.
Later Jane is offered another proposal of marriage, from her cousin SST John, but she refuses as she rightly fears it will be a loveless and dispassionate companionship. This is not what Jane wants, and eventually returns to the arms of her true love; Rochester. It can also be argued that Rochester views myself as superior to Jane not Just because of gender, class or wealth, but simply because he is older, more experienced and well-traveled in comparison to Jane.
This is apparent in chapter 14 when Rochester demands Jane to speak to him, purely for his own entertainment it seems. He views his self-professed superiority enough reason to Justify this demand; ‘Then, in the first place, do you agree with me that I have a right to be a little masterful, abrupt, perhaps exacting, sometimes, on the grounds I stated, namely, that I am old enough to be your father, and that I have tattled through a varied experience with many men of many nations, and roamed over half the globe, while you have lived quietly with one set of people in one house. (Page 157) By Jane refusing to indulge Rochester, and disagreeing with his view that he is superior to her, because of the factors he has describes, shows how strong willed she is in her search for equality. Jane is able to stand up to Rochester’s ideas, although he is twenty years her superior; she doesn’t Just speak for the sake of it but rather challenges Rochester on his view of his superiority. Your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your mime and experience. (Page 1 57) Here she makes it clear to Rochester that although he may be older and more experienced than her, this does not automatically make him superior in her eyes. Another important part of the novel is the Bedchamber fire incident that occurs in chapter 15, when Jane risks her own life to save Rochester, from the fire which was deviously set by his wife Bertha. It is here we are first introduced to the unspoken feelings between Jane and Rochester. It becomes apparent that Jane cares for Rochester so much so, that she saves his life, whilst endangering her own.
Her reaction to the event was without delay, and almost instinctive; ‘Not a moment could be lost (page 174). This is the natural reaction an individual would have, when a loved one is in danger. Here we also find out that Cane’s feelings for Rochester are reciprocated, by the way he is dismayed when she is about to leave him, to go back to bed, and also by the physical affection he displays when he holds her hand in his own. This passage is significant because it represents the repeated pattern of Jane looking after Rochester, and him hiding something from ere.
We first saw this, during their initial meeting when Jane helps Rochester back onto his horse, and Rochester hides his true identity as the master of Threefold Hall from her. Then again, when Rochester disguises himself as a fortune telling gypsy woman, and does not reveal himself until he has finished telling Jane her fortune. This could possibly symbolism the fact that Rochester can’t come clean about his emotions, due to social reasons; therefore he disperser’s himself in order for Jane to feel comfortable enough to admit her feelings for him; which she still doesn’t do. Rated the fire and not Grace Poole as he falsely tells Jane, in order to protect his own secret. Here the use of fire and water (which Jane uses to extinguish the fire in Rochester’s chamber), represents the recurring symbolism that Bronze uses to associate these elements with the emotions, moods and general characterization of Jane and Rochester. The fire represents the burning passion between Jane and Rochester, which is dangerous due to the implicating factors which condemn their partnership, meanwhile the water that extinguishes the fire (their passion) presents all of the obstacles they face.
Eventually Jane achieves her goal and is able to have an equal relationship with Rochester, but it is important to realism that in doing so, Bronze did not break any of the social conventions and finds a solution to overcome all of the obstacles the two faced. Bertha dies before Jane and Rochester marry, and this legitimates their marriage as there is no longer an existing wife. Jane inherits a fortune and they are able to marry as equals. By the time the two eventually marry, Rochester is blind and castrated and no longer physically superior to Jane.